The Blanket

Controlling the Streets
‘The instruments of liberation tend to become means of manipulation.’
- Rolando Gaete

Anthony McIntyre • 6.9.02

Walking through Armagh city with an hour or two on my hands, having just missed my bus, a driver tooted his horn at me as I crossed at lights. When I approached the car and spoke to him, he - having recognised me from somewhere else - asked if I would highlight some problems he was experiencing at the hands of the local Provisionals. It was not the first time that such an appeal had come my way simply in the course of travelling. On one occasion disembarking from a bus in Belfast, having just arrived from Cookstown, the driver asked if I could help his family circle acquire more information from the Provisional IRA about the circumstances of his nephew‘s death. Easier getting blood from a stone.

People probably feel that, having spoken out on the killing of Joe O’Connor in West Belfast two years ago, I, or those who write alongside me, may be able to articulate a grievance or provide a voice for those republicans or non-aligned people who are being denied one by the dominant republican status quo. There is a price to be paid for responding to such requests for assistance. Provisional republicanism is intensely hostile to those who question its version of events. And yet, can we have any self-belief if we turn our backs and close our ears?

Reluctant to relinquish the militarist mindset which has prevailed in undiluted form from the armed struggle era, because of the means to impose control that it enables, Provisional republicanism applies a wartime logic to the present so neatly outlined by Arthur Ponsonby - ‘failure to lie is negligence, the doubting of a lie is a misdemeanour, the declaration of the truth a crime.’ Its version, totally untrue as it is on many occasions, shall brook no challenge.

The person who stopped me introduced himself as Greg Trainor. He informed me that he had been beaten up the previous Thursday by people who had family connections with the local Provisional power structure. He also displayed a wound in his back which he claimed was as a result of a knife being used during the attack. His car also had its window smashed.

Greg Trainor, known locally as ‘McGregor’ and a member of Republican Sinn Fein, said that he was visited at his workplace a number of days after the attack by ‘the Provos’ and informed if he tried to take the matter any further he would be ‘dealt with.’ He feels that the incident is the result of a dispute between local families and that it is not the business of the Provisionals. He asserts that he attacked no one, injured no one nor damaged any property. Yet those who attacked him, because of family connections, are able to exploit these to ensure the matter is ended there and in their favour. He asks:

What can I do? I am a republican so I cannot go to the RUC. I will get no justice from Sinn Fein. They are more concerned with putting travellers out of Dromarg and want no opposition to their control. I need some way to get this raised. These people are giving the green light to any thug in this town to attack me and then they will follow up with the heavy hand. Protecting drunken thugs should not be what the Provisional IRA is about.

To make matters worse, the Republican Sinn Fein member, produced a sheet of paper he had received from the RUC on the same day as he was subjected to a visit from the Provisionals. The paper stated that he was in danger of loyalist attack.

Greg Trainor further alleges that on the same night as his own attack, an uncle - a former republican prisoner who had also been shot by the loyalists - was assaulted by a ‘family of drunks’ with links to the Provisionals. He too was later ‘visited by the Provos’ and informed that the fate promised to Greg Trainor would fall his way also if he were to respond to acts of violence against him. Since our chance meeting on an Armagh street, 'McGregor' has handed in an invoice to the local Sinn Fein office relating to the damage to his car and asked that it be passed on to the people responsible for the attack.

The Blanket has no account of these incidents other than Greg Trainor’s. And according to a local community activist, the Provisionals have no monopoly on this sort of disruptive activity in Armagh; other republican groups have been engaged in implementing their own agendas of social and political control. But he does admit that the Provisionals, being the dominant force will tolerate no opposition.

They seek to colonise everything from community groups to local festivals. What has been learned in Belfast they are using as a template to formulate strategies of control elsewhere. They undermine any other voice within the areas that they seek to control. They do not like people who can articulate and present alternatives. They target any potential leaders who might pose a challenge to them. So the environment is not a healthy one in which alternative radical political projects can develop.

A former H-Block hunger striker from the city once went public about his own experience at the hands of the Provisional power structure. When he openly intimated that he intended to contest a seat on the city council in elections at that point still two years away, he was told by Provisionals that if he stood he would never be able to stand again. He was put under pressure right up until the election when a strong performance caused his tormentors to take a step back.

What is happening in Armagh today is symptomatic of a trend taking place elsewhere throughout the North. As the Provisionals no longer pose any threat to British rule, the British in a self serving act are happily coexisting in an environment where a measure of local control is exercised by the Provisionals. The state will ensure enough money is pumped in which will guarantee the continued existence of a layer of salaried bureaucrats who will promote their own interests while smothering those of more radical or insurrectionary elements within the communities. As far as the British are concerned it hardly matters if the Provisional IRA, now stripped of any revolutionary political purpose and posing no challenge to hospital closures or the introduction of PFI and PPP, function as a right wing vigilante force running the streets, and ultimately serving as the vanguard of the consent principle. Little wonder the British diplomat Sir David Goodall could comment ‘actually, it’s all working out almost exactly to plan.’






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Openly questioning the way the world works and challenging the power of the powerful is not an activity customarily rewarded.
- Dale Spender

Index: Current Articles

12 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Controlling the Streets

Anthony McIntyre


Prevent the Bush Turkey Shoot
Davy Carlin


The 96th Life
Halime Tokay


8 September 2002


The BNP, Anti-Fascism and the Libertarian Dilemma
Mark Hayes


Out of the Ashes of Armed Struggle Arose the Stormontistas And They Fought...Ardoyne Youth

Anthony McIntyre


Republicanism in the Age of Empire
Michael Youlton


The Interface
Davy Carlin


Colombia Deteriorates Daily
Sean Smyth


The Letters Page has been updated.




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